Writing a Winning Book Description

Written by Dr. Laura Bush

A book is just like any other product. If you want your book to sell well, you’ve got to care about the packaging. Many authors who self-publish don’t invest enough time or money in the two key elements that go into packaging a book: (1) the cover and (2) the text on the front and back cover of the book—the title, subtitle, the headline, book description, and reader reviews. 

In  the publishing industry, it’s a well-established fact that readers DO judge a book by its cover. So be sure to read our upcoming blog on book cover design. But in this blog, I’m focusing on the high value text that shows up on the back cover of your book, specifically the back cover headline and book description on the back of nonfiction books.

To write back cover copy that will help sell your book, you want to be concise (100 to 175 words), satisfy your ideal reader’s curiosity about the book, and convince them that they want to read the book you’ve spent much of your heart, soul, and time writing. To do so, begin by brainstorming answers to the following five questions:

  1. What is your book about? 
    Examples: humor, health, fashion, leadership . . . 
  2. What are several benefits of reading your book?
    Examples: to educate, motivate, inspire, entertain, provoke thought . . . 
  3. Who is your ideal reader? 
    Examples: entrepreneurs, women scientists, public speakers, yoga instructors . . . 
  4. What will your reader learn by reading your book? 
    Examples: They will learn how to create a powerful life; they will know how someone else dealt with and overcame serious illness; they will learn how to make people laugh . . . 
  5. What does your reader want to know by reading your book? 
    Examples: How to overcome their grief, how to find a positive outlook during their cancer journey, how to follow their passion, how to speak with confidence . . . 

Once you take time to fully answer these five questions, you’ll begin to hone your responses into a tightly crafted book cover description that compels your reader to want to read your book. Part of your book description might even consist of a simple bulleted list, depending on the subject matter. If you’ve written a memoir, you might also try finishing this sentence: “You need to read this book because you’ll find out about . . .” followed by bullet points with the main topics or the main acts that take place during your memoir. With memoir, though, avoid simply summarizing the plot.

Finally, at the top of the back cover of any book, you’ll almost always see an eye-catching “headline” meant to capture your reader’s attention. The headline could be worded as a question or a direct benefit to the reader. It might begin with words such as discoverlearn, or find out how. If an influencer or a well-known public figure has written a great review of your book, you could use that review as a headline.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to learn how to write winning back cover book descriptions is to read plenty of examples from bestselling books. Here are a variety of good examples from the back covers of Peacock Proud Press books:

I Survived Pompeii: Hilarious Adventures in an Elementary School Library by Rhonda Willford Eberst

HEADLINE (in the form of a statement)
Real-life conversations that will touch your heart while making you laugh out loud.

Rhonda Willford Eberst tells hilarious stories that capture the heart-warming moments and exasperating challenges educators face daily. Eberst turns her funny, entertaining, and often enlightening conversations with kids into adventures in everything from “Surviving the Gig” to “Discovering You Matter.” This book reminds librarians, teachers, and school administrators to laugh at their students, even when they might want to cry. Ultimately, this zany, loving librarian demonstrates the real difference that one educator can make in the quality and direction of a child’s life by showing each student that she or he matters.

Surviving Online Dating Fraud: How I Recovered and the Lessons I Learned by Carole K. Zingula

HEADLINE (in the form of questions)
Are you easy bait for a con artist? Do you know the red flags that signal you’re being scammed?

Carole K. Zingula tells a powerful story about her personal journey recovering from online dating fraud, as well as the specific precautions you should take before dating online. Having lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Carole courageously shares how her lack of self-love, loneliness, and not knowing the “red flags” that signaled fraud all set her up as easy bait for con artists.  Her story also demonstrates that criminals can scam anyone. She provides valuable information about how to protect yourself from fraud, while sharing how she recovered from shame, guilt, and low self-esteem using meditation, hypnotism, and drawing on her deep spiritual faith.

My Life with Charles Billups and Martin Luther King: Trauma and the Civil Rights Movement by Rene Billups Baker and Keith D. Miller, PhD  (2019)

HEADLINE (in the form of a review by an influencer)
“No one is a more ardent and zealous worker for the Movement than Charles Billups.” –Fred Shuttlesworth

Charles Billups displayed pivotal leadership during the climax of the entire civil rights movement—Martin Luther King’s campaign in Birmingham. But little of Billups’ story has been told. Until now. In this book, Billups’ daughter, Rene Billups Baker, relates his torture by the Ku Klux Klan. For the first time, she reveals his participation in King’s key strategy sessions at the Gaston Motel. More fully than anyone else, Rene records her father’s courageous direction of a march that serves as one of the peak moments of American nonviolence. King himself deemed the march “fantastic.” Rene also tells about her own encounters with King, encounters that have never before appeared in print. And she recalls an experience of unthinkable trauma in Chicago. This dramatic account illuminates the horrors of white supremacist violence, as well as the triumph and cost of resisting it.

Feeling Good: Thirty-Five Proven Ways to Happiness by Dr. Peggy Doherty DeLong  (2020)

HEADLINE (in the form of a statement)
You Have the Power to Create Your Own Happiness

BOOK DESCRIPTION (159 words with a bulleted list)
Using simple, doable techniques, Dr. Peggy DeLong shows you how to cultivate joy, even on a difficult day. These 35 proven ways to happiness require little time or energy—and little to no money? When you’re feeling down or lack motivation, you’ll now know what to do to feel good again.

As a psychologist with twenty years of experience helping people with depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, and loss, Dr. DeLong provides relevant and timely psychological research that demonstrates the proven effectiveness of each technique for feeling good.

Begin your journey toward feeling good now by learning . . . 

  • The #1 factor related to happiness in life and how you can foster it.
  • How to train your brain to effortlessly think more positively.
  • How to use easily accessible objects to boost your mood, anytime and any place.
  • Why processing your painful emotions is the key to happiness.
  • You’re a powerful human being in charge of your thoughts and feelings.

Dr. Laura Bush is CEO and Founder of Peacock Proud Press. She works as a publisher, writing coach, editor, and ghostwriter to help entrepreneurs, speakers, corporate leaders, and autobiographers write and publish high quality books that transform the lives of authors and their readers.

Written by Dr. Laura Bush